9 Easy Tricks People Can Use To Seem More Competent At Work

If you’ve ever been around a group of smart people and felt momentarily inadequate, don’t fret; it happens to everyone. While you’re most certainly competent, these momentary lapses of deficiency are inescapable.

Especially if you work in a high-pressure job, it’s important to remember that there are tricks to projecting yourself in such a manner that suggests a higher competency. Best of all, they’re easy to learn.

So, if you’re in the market to seem more intelligent and confident, look no further, because these nine methods will make doing just that a total breeze.

It goes without saying that almost everyone could stand to benefit from being more competent and confident from time to time. If you’ve ever experienced momentary inadequacy, you’re not alone. Luckily for you, there are easy ways to fix the issue. Just take these nine ways to do so, for instance…


1. Speak at a higher rate of speed: Research suggests people who speak faster not only appear more confident, but are also more likely to win a debate. In 1975, Brigham Young University asked several students to listen to recordings of six different test subjects that had been sped up and slowed down. The students unanimously agreed that the faster speaker appeared to be more competent. Still, remember to not to rush too much, or you’ll sound nervous!


2. Consider wearing makeup: A 2011 study conducted at Harvard University asked 250 people to look at photos of 25 women. A quarter of them had no makeup, another quarter sported light makeup, a quarter wore slightly more makeup, and the last quarter were made up to be glamorous. When the people were asked who appeared most competent, the majority of students chose the “glamorous” women. That’s messed up!

Gonzalo Fuentes

3. Don’t be afraid to ask how to do things: Sure, you might think asking questions makes you appear dim, but that’s not true. In a study at Harvard Business school, 170 students were asked to work on an array of different computer tasks with a virtual partner. That partner, however, was actually a simulation.


When it finished, the students could respond to their partner with either, “It went well,” or, “It went well. Do you have any advice?” The students who chose the advice option proved to be more competent than the other students who did not. The research suggests that people who ask for advice are actually validating the person they’re asking, and in return, they feel good about you, too.

4. Men who are leaders should not ask for advice: Yes, asking for advice for most people is a good idea. But, evidently, men in leadership roles come off as less competent. Sixty-five business students were recruited by researchers for a study and asked to answer questions about leadership venture experiences in which they’d participated, such as climbing mountains. They then took turns acting as the leader for a day. 


Researchers found that some students talked about how the leader asked for help, and others didn’t. They concluded that those who asked for help were eventually rated to be less competent than leaders who did not. That is… not encouraging to hear.

5. Be cold: A study written in Experimental Social Psychology suggested that people who are warmer, in terms of temperament, were perceived as less competent. When students at a college in the U.S. were asked to rate each other’s competency based on their warmth, the overwhelming majority picked people with colder dispositions. Yeesh!


6. Your profile photo should be taken from a further distance: If you need to upload a picture of yourself to either social media or for a potential job, research suggests using a photo that’s taken from at least a few feet away. A study conducted found that 18 men were found to be considered more competent, trustworthy, and attractive if they were photographed from 4.5 feet away, instead of just 1.5 feet. Sounds about right.


7. Try to make your face wider: A study conducted by New York University and the University of Connecticut suggest that it’s not easy to physically make yourself appear more competent. This is largely because people tend to judge your competency based on facial structure. The study had people look at pictures of men that were digitally edited to make their faces appear wider.

Paulin’a / Flickr

Then, they were asked which ones they believed would win a weightlifting competition. Low and behold, the majority chose the ones with wider faces. Of course, you can’t physically make your face wider, but they suggest you could digitally enhance it to appear that way in photos.

8. Don’t use Emojis in business emails: A recent study asked some of the 500 people from 29 countries to use smiling emojis in their professional emails. Those who used them were more often perceived by the recipient as less competent than those who didn’t use them. This was likely because the people receiving the emails saw the emojis as unsuitable for formal emails.


9. Tell an appropriate joke for the occasion: A study found that people who are able to make an appropriate joke at work were perceived as being more competent. Yet, people who told inappropriate jokes were perceived as less competent. So, make sure you workshop your material first!


It just goes to show that you can constantly transform yourself to be the person you want to be, as long as you try hard enough.

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